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The Ambiente, the Trio and the History Are Priceless at Mi Tierra's Mariachi Bar 

click to enlarge RON BECHTOL
  • Ron Bechtol

“Y mi iré con el sol cuando muera la tarde…”

The afternoon isn’t yet dying, the sun not yet leaving when happy hour starts at Mi Tierra’s Mariachi Bar. But then you likely don’t really want to start drinking at 3. Wait until a about 5: 30 p.m. You’ll still have an hour to go (happy hour runs 3:30 to 6:30 Monday through Friday), and the guayabera-clad trio may well have started serenading. Their voices give the impression of having been cured together over the years, much like an extra-añejo tequila. They are one of the best reasons to head to this timeless institution with its marvelously over-the-top mariachi décor. They began their set this evening with the Jose Alfredo Jimenez classic “La Media Vuelta,” from which the above lyrics come. Media vuelta, however, means “about face” — and I’m suggesting just the opposite.

Tequila used to be more of a reason to head to the Mariachi Bar. And though the selection is still impressive, there are local bars such as The Esquire Tavern and Mezcalería Mixtli with agave programs that are much more comprehensive. And up to date. Not surprisingly, the good stuff (say Sauza’s Tres Generaciones at $10.25 a shot) doesn’t put in a happy hour appearance. A house marg, frozen or on the rocks, will set you back $4. But even though the Oro margarita goes for $6 and is made from Cuervo’s Tradicional — a good but not exceptional tequila, it’s worth the step-up.

“It’s better than the house pour,” stated the bartender in matter-of-fact fashion. 
click to enlarge RON BECHTOL
  • Ron Bechtol

If your palate is anything like mine, you may want additional limes wedges for this one, but thus adulterated, the Oro on the rocks merited at least a bronze. And it held up nicely to the end — enough time to finish off a colorful botanas platter composed of chicken flautitas, quesadillas, chalupitas with beans and picadillo and a dab of guacamole sided by sour cream. A little jalapeño-heavy pico de gallo wouldn’t have hurt here, but at $7 it’s hard to complain too vigorously. Queso and guacamole are also available at $6. Import drafts and well drinks are $4.

The ambiente, the trio and the history, however, are all priceless. A poster of Jorge Negrete, “El Charro Cantor,” occupies one wall, another featuring Bill Clinton in running gear that includes a Mi Tierra t-shirt, is the backdrop for the musicians. Where else, I ask, where else … cuando muera la tarde or any other time.

218 Produce Row, (210) 227-7140.

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